Why New Zealand should take refugees – and stop supporting the conflict in Syria

Today I saw an article about how low Australian Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton is prepared to go in his mind boggling anti-refugee hysteria. Without any shame he is on the campaign trail like Prime Minister John Howard in 2001 (just before 11 September 2001)whipping up a fear of boat people. And then I looked at the Facebook comments about the article on Stuff.co.nz and found sadly many New Zealanders think just like him.

New Zealand loves to do well and there is no way we would accept not being near the top of the statistics for socio-economic performance. There is no way we would accept being 87th in the world for literacy rates or average age a man/woman could expect to live to. And yet there we are at 87th in the world for the number of refugees we accept per capita. The annual quota when it was first established for New Zealand was 800. In 1997 it was downgraded by the previous National-led Government to 750. And there it has been stuck for nearly two decades. And more unfortunately it is true that sometimes New Zealand does not even take that many.

The Government of Prime Minister John Key seems keen on “paying the price” to be a part of the club – a rather vague and misleading reference to the group of powerful first world nations centred around the U.S. by getting involved in the war in Iraq and Syria, despite little public appetite in New Zealand. But despite pressure from Amnesty International among others, there has been no concrete change in the refugee quota.

We are one of the luckiest countries in the world, and one of the wealthiest. Not many people live in nations as peaceful as New Zealand and enjoy the freedoms and material wealth that New Zealanders do.

Pakistan, a country rent by terrorism, with insurgencies in the northwest of the country, and at odds with its larger neighbours on the other hand in 2015 was playing host to 1.6 million refugees. Lebanon, Iraq, Iran – countries one would not normally associate with humanitarian responsibility, and which have their own not insignificant problems – play host to hundreds of thousands. The camps are appalling, with no or little running water, minimal – if any – exposure from the extreme cold and heat that come with winter and summer respectively there.

You who read this might say stop the boats. Stop the refugees coming. Stop them taking our jobs, our resources and our land.

Then I have a very blunt message to you:

Stop voting for Governments that support the war in Syria. Stop voting for Governments that want to contribute militarily to the Middle East. Stop voting for a Government that wants to deals with Saudi Arabia, whose military has been implicated in the bombing of medical facilities in Yemen, using British and American ordinance.

And start voting for Governments that support, implement and enforce the international rule of law. Because until you do, the refugees with their tales of suffering and their abject refusal to go home will continue to come. Because until you do, you are in effect condoning the atrocities.

Shame on you.


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